Alpena
IMO 5206362

St. Marys River, May 2004.
(Roger LeLievre)


Constructed as a Great Lakes bulk freighter, this vessel was built by Great Lakes Engineering Works, Rouge River, MI. She was launched Feb. 28, 1942 as the steamer Leon Fraser for the Pittsburgh Steamship Co., Cleveland, OH. The Leon Fraser was the first of five "supers" (also known as "Fraser-class" or "AA-class") launched in 1942 for this fleet. She entered service on June 21 of that year. The other four "supers" included the Enders Voorhees (scrapped 1989), Benjamin Fairless (scrapped 1988), Irving S. Olds (scrapped 1988), and the A. H. Ferbert (also scrapped 1988). The Leon Fraser's dimensions as constructed were 639' 06" (194.92m) loa x 67' (20.42m) beam x 35' (10.67m) depth. Eighteen hatches serviced 3 holds where the bulker was capable of carrying 19,150 tons (19,458 tonnes) at a mid summer draft of 25' 08" (7.82m). She was powered by a 4,000 s.h.p. De Laval double reduction geared, cross-compound steam turbine engine built by De Laval Steam Turbine Co., Trenton, NJ with 2 coal-fired water-tube boilers giving her a service speed of 13.8 m.p.h.

The bulk carrier's namesake, Mr. Leon Fraser, was born at Boston, MA on Nov. 27, 1889. After being admitted to the New York Bar Association in 1914 and receiving his Ph.D. in 1915 from Columbia University, he held various distinguished positions in the business world until retiring in 1937 as vice-president of the First National Bank of New York. He was a director of United States Steel (Pittsburgh Steamship's parent company) when the vessel was christened in his honor

The Leon Fraser sailed on her maiden voyage June 21, 1942 from Detroit, MI to Duluth, MN to load iron ore. Distinguishing herself early in her career, the Leon Fraser broke the Duluth, MN iron ore record in 1942 by loading 17,033 tons (17,307 tonnes). The new bulk carrier was the first vessel to go downbound through the MacArthur Lock at Sault Ste. Marie on July 11, 1943. The Leon Fraser continued to sail actively for the "Tin Stacker" fleet through until 1982 in the iron ore trade. The Fraser was one of 13 vessels in the Pittsburgh fleet that was modified to operate in salt water for the long haul through the Welland Canal/St. Lawrence Seaway to Port Cartier, PQ to load Canadian iron ore from Labrador for delivery to U.S. Steel mills. Fresh water for the engine was carried in a ballast tank and extra tanks were added for drinking and wash water for the crew. This activity lasted for about 10 years starting in mid 1962. A bow thruster was added and the vessel was converted from coal to oil at American Ship Building Co., Lorain, OH by Advance Boiler & Tank Co. during the winter of 1969/70. The Fraser also participated in the winter-long navigation feasibility study carried out in the mid 1970's. For this study, the Fraser was equipped with special perforations for air bubbling through special angle irons along the hull to help break up ice. This work was completed by Arctic Inc., Columbia, MD.

The Leon Fraser laid up at the former American Ship Building yard in Lorain, OH in 1982, remaining there through 1989. In 1985, her ownership was passed to Spitzer Marine Ltd. In 1989. Fraser Shipyards, Inc., Superior, WI acquired the vessel and on Oct. 29, 1989; moved her to their yard in Superior where she was shortened 120 feet (36.58m) and converted to a self-unloading cement carrier for Inland Lakes Transportation, Inc. (Lafarge), Alpena, MI (now Inland Lakes Management). Inland Lakes acquired the Leon Fraser in 1990, renaming her Alpena (2) on June 10, 1991 returning her to active service in her new trade that year. The Alpena retained her original De Laval power plant. Although she is equipped with an airslide self-unloading boom, it is not used as her destination ports are not currently equipped to handle it. With her new dimensions, the Alpena is capable of carrying 13,900 tons (14,123 tonnes) at her maximum mid-summer draft of 26' 05" (8.05m).

The Alpena (2) was named in honor of the owner's headquarters city at Alpena, MI and of the large cement plant located there. The Alpena (1), although also named after Alpena, MI, did not sail for Inland Lakes Transportation. She was launched Mar. 24, 1909 as a self-unloading bulk freighter for Wyandotte Transportation Co., Wyandotte, MI. This vessel was 374' (114m) loa x 47' 03" (14.40m) beam x 26' 03" (8.00m) depth; 6,298 dwt and was powered by a 1,300 hp quadruple expansion steam engine. The Alpena (1) was renamed Sidney E. Smith, Jr. (1) in 1968 after her ownership had changed to Erie Sand Steamship Co. She was renamed Alpena (1) for a second time late in 1971 and was scrapped in the spring of 1973.

Carrying a crew of 21, the Alpena (2) continues to sail actively under the Inland Lakes Management banner carrying cement products between Lafarge facilities. Her trade routes encompass all five of the Great Lakes.

A major fire in the aft end of this vessel, caused by aging wiring, while in drydock at Bay Shipbuilding Co., Sturgeon Bay, Wis., on December 11, 2015, could have ended the career of this classic laker, but the decision was made to conduct repairs and the vessel resumed sailing in 2016, much to the relief of boatwatchers.


Written by George Wharton.



Ship Particulars
Length 519' 06" (158.35m)
Beam 67' 00" (20.42m)
Depth 35' 00" (10.67m)
Midsummer Draft 26' 05" (8.05m)
Capacity 13,900 tons
Engine Power 4,000 shp steam turbine
Previous Names
Alpena 1991 - Today
Leon Fraser 1942 - 1991

 


Alpena (1). Previously named ship.
(John Vournakis courtesy MHSD)

Leon Fraser in the Welland Canal, Sept. 23, 1976.
(James H. Jackson)

Leon Fraser Soo Locks, June 22, 1977.
(Hugh O'Connor)

Leon Fraser at Duluth, MN, Sept 20, 1980.
(Dick Wicklund)

Fraser in lay-up.
(Mitch Miller)

Unloading in Detroit.
(Mike Nicholls)

Lake Huron Cut.
(Andy LaBorde)

Underway.
(Todd Davidson)

Saginaw River.
(Todd Shorkey)

In Cleveland.
(Dave Edwards Collection)

Underway.
(Philip Nash)

Detroit River.
(Mike Nicholls)

Close up of unloading system.

Unloading.
(Rod Burdick)

Cleveland lay-up.
(Mike Nicholls)

Livingstone Channel.
(N. Schultheiss)

Out bound Cleveland.
(TZ)

Close up.
(TZ)

Pilothouse.
(TZ)

Another view.
(TZ)

Stern view.
(TZ)

Close up of stern.

Unloading in Saginaw.
(Stephen Hause)

Docked along side the J. B. Ford in S. Chicago.
(Luke Collection)

At sunset in Duluth harbor.
(Andrew Tubesing)

St. Marys River.
(Roger LeLievre)

Downbound off of Lake Huron, May 2002.
(George Wharton)

Bow profile.
(George Wharton)

Stern profile.
(George Wharton)

Main St. Bridge, Green Bay, WI, Nov. 2004.
(Stephen Giese)

Leaving the bridge.
(Stephen Giese)

Mason St. bridge.
(Stephen Giese)

Lafarge dock, Cleveland, Jan. 2005.
(Mike Nicholls)

Arriving Duluth, July 2004.
(Glenn Blaskiewicz)

Stern view.
(Glenn Blaskiewicz)

Aerial view underway.
(Don Coles)

Stern view.
(Mike Nicholls)

In Alpena.
(David Swain)

Inbound St. Joseph.
(Gary Martin)

Inbound Duluth.
(Rick Jones)

Close up of Stern.
(Mike Nicholls)

Welland Canal.
(Bill Bird)

Underway.
(Todd Davidson)

Unloading along side the E. M. Ford in Saginaw.
(Stephen Hause)

Unloading in Duluth along side the J.B. Ford.
(Kent Rengo)

Soo Locks.
(Todd Davidson)

In her name sake city.
(Ben & Chanda McClain)

Outbound Cleveland.
(TZ)

Stack from the Soo Locks viewing platform.
(Roger LeLievre)

Soo Locks.
(Todd Davidson)

Milwaukee.
(Andy LaBorde)

Downbound, Lake Huron, Mar.2001.
(George Wharton)


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